Honda CBX1000 - Unique Bikes

By: Guy Allen, Unique Cars magazine

fr34rhs Second-generation Honda CBX1000 fr34rhs
eng rhs Six-cylinder engien was impressive eng rhs
clocks Comprehensive instrumentation. clocks
frbrake Ventilated discs were cast in-house. frbrake
lhs Quick and comfortable classic. lhs
cbx1000 1979 Honda's first generation CBX1000 was quite different. cbx1000 1979

Honda's second-gen six-cylinder shook up the grand touring class

Honda CBX1000 - Unique Bikes
Modern classics

Honda's first-generation CBX1000 six (aka the naked version) was publicly launched in late 1977 and an unexpected delay in production meant it took nearly a year for it to reach the market – so the second half of 1978 for the 1979 model year. It pulled very positive reviews, but the delay hobbled it in the showroom. There was a lot going on at the time, such as the launch of Yamaha’s XS1100 and Suzuki’s GS1000 series.

Add in the obvious complexities involved with a 24-valve inline six, with a carburetor per pot, and you can understand how a fairly conservative market might have got a little shy. The first-gen pulled only modest sales, and so Honda worked on a second that it could shift into a different market segment.

Rather than just dress it up in new bodywork, the company put some serious effort in. It risked knocking a few horses off the top-end to broaden the mid range and made some small but significant alterations to the carburettor set-up.

Suspension at both ends was upgraded, moving from twin-shocks to a Prolink rising-rate monoshock at the rear. Steering geometry was altered to slow it down and the wheels were changed over.

When it came to brakes for a now heavier machine, Honda’s showpiece saw the fitment of ventilated discs cast in-house (an impressive undertaking at the time) combined with an upgrade to two-piston calipers all-round. The previous model was effectively running Gold Wing brakes with solid discs, worked by single-piston calipers.

The in-house panniers were sculpted to fit the machine and came with a key-operated one-off mounting system that worked well.

And then there was the Bol d’Or-theme fairing, complemented by the long rear tailpiece. It was a nice try, but the market still wasn’t convinced.

In the USA, dealers famously quit stock for whatever they could get, commonly around 60 per cent of retail.

And so there we were, a little over 40 years later, with muggins risking a bid at auction on one of these things. It ended up in the shed.

Firing it up is no issue, though it doesn’t run so much as rasp – there’s a hackle-raising sound which is a little like two angry triples, which you can put down to a combination of air-cooled straight-six and the lack of balance pipe on the current 2 x 3-into-1 exhaust system. Compared to a current liquid-cooled multi, it sounds raw and potentially explosive.

Like any older air-cooled engine, it takes a while to get up to temp, so a short-warm-up and then a gentle ride-away works.

Once up to speed, it sounds angry and is silky smooth – a weird combination. Oh, and it’s alarmingly quick. It might be just 98 horses, but that’s enough to accelerate the thing at an amazing rate, pulling strongly off the bottom end and very enthusiastic in the mid range. Top end is around 220km/h. 

It’s fun to jump on these monsters, particularly once they’re sorted. They’re big, fast and hugely entertaining. 

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1975 Norton Commando at auction



Norton's Commando 850 MkIII this was the company's last hurrah for the famous nameplate and was arguably best-developed of the bunch.

Much had been done to improve the reliability, while the isolastic engine mount system had been upgraded, the gearshift moved to the left and an electric starter added.

Although arguably obsolete, the Commando still possessed endearing qualities. These included a torquey twin cylinder engine, moderate weight, excellent handling, and above all, timeless looks. Though not particularly rare or exotic, the Norton Commando exemplified the archetypal British motorcycle, and the Mark III was the pinnacle. It really was everything Norton claimed it to be.

 This 1975 Norton 850 Mark III Roadster was found by motorcycle author Ian Falloon in 2012 in a basement in Woodland Park, Colorado USA. It was in original condition, in the rare and desirable John Player colour scheme and with only 4820 miles on the odometer. It was presented in the same original condition.    

It sold via Donington Auctions on June 2, 2024, for $31,000.

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